Russia Faces New Threat: Ukraine’s ‘Toloka’ Underwater Maritime Drone
The Russian Navy has a new problem in the Black Sea. Ukrainian group Brave-1 have shown their Toloka weaponized UUV (uncrewed underwater vehicle). The design is evidently intended to operate as a form of loitering torpedo.
The design consisted of a typical tubular body, but with a large keel and horizontal stabilizers amidships. Thrusters are mounted on the end of each horizontal stabilizer. Intuitively, these are used for steering as well as propulsion. This should allow significant agility. If the mast is always above water then, technically, you could argue that it’s a semi-submersible. In this case however that distinction may be unhelpful. It’s a weaponized UUV.
This is a natural evolution of Ukraine’s maritime drones which are uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) packed with explosives. Being an underwater vehicle it is less prone to detection and harder to neutralize with gunfire. Its warhead is also impacting below the waterline so may be more likely to sink its target.
The trade-off will be range and speed. Also, the communications mast, which may contain an electro-optical camera, will need to be above the surface.
The concept is similar to devices used by the Croatians during the Balkans war and more recently by the Iranians. The Toloka design is distinct from these however. It is a concept that makes a lot of sense.
Although it has now been shown publicly by Brave-1, it is unclear whether it is being used operationally. Multiple versions are expected, including one which is 4 meters long and claimed to have a range of 1200 km or 400 km operation radius. The figures may be ambitious, but the project is interesting and clearly has potential.
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